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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2005 Sep;49(9):3883-8.

Salivary antimicrobial peptide expression and dental caries experience in children.

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Department of Oral Biology, Box 357132, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-7132, USA.


Dental caries is a major worldwide oral disease problem in children. Although caries are known to be influenced by dietary factors, the disease results from a bacterial infection; thus, caries susceptibility may be affected by host factors such as salivary antimicrobial peptides. This study aimed to determine a possible correlation between caries prevalence in children and salivary concentrations of the antimicrobial peptides human beta-defensin-3 (hBD-3), the cathelicidin LL37, and the alpha-defensins HNP1-3 (a mixture of HNP1, 2, 3). Oral examinations were performed on 149 middle school children, and unstimulated whole saliva was collected for immunoassays of the three peptides and for assay of caries-causing bacteria in saliva. The median salivary levels of hBD-3, LL37, and HNP1-3 were in the microgram/ml range but were highly variable in the population. While levels of LL37 and hBD-3 did not correlate with caries experience, the median HNP1-3 levels were significantly higher in children with no caries than in children with caries. Children with high caries levels did not have high levels of salivary Streptococcus mutans, and the HNP1-3 level was not correlated with salivary S. mutans. By immunohistochemistry we localized HNP1-3 in submandibular salivary duct cells. HNPs are also released by neutrophils into the gingival crevicular fluid. Both sources may account for their presence in saliva. Low salivary levels of HNP1-3 may represent a biological factor that contributes to caries susceptibility. This observation could lead to new ways to screen for caries susceptibility and to new means of assessing the risk for this common oral problem.

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